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Carrying a different ball

Rah! Rah! Rah! Three cheers for those colleges who are carrying the ball for academia first - and on the gridiron afterwards. With professional football players on strike, the major television networks have been scurrying for substitute sports fare for Sunday afternoons. And they are dangling lucrative contracts in front of universities to switch Saturday games to Sunday to accommodate regional telecasts.

But some are not taking the bait. Among them, Wesleyan University in Connecticut. ''Education is still more important than football,'' says Wesleyan president Colin Campbell. He adds that the move would have upset academic and other campus weekend plans.

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Football is a popular sport. But, as another New England educator points out, it must take its place in the larger educational context.